The Senate on Wednesday advanced a resolution calling for an end to American support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, a reaction to Saudi Arabia’s killing of a U.S.-based Saudi journalist. The measure, which advanced by a vote of 60-39, is largely symbolic and still faces a final vote. Even if it passes the Senate, the House is not expected to even consider the bill this year and Trump has threatened to veto it if it reaches his desk.
The Yemen measure, a rare bipartisan rebuke of Trump, passed despite fierce White House opposition. It gained support after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and contributing columnist for the Washington Post who was critical of the Saudi royal family.
The CIA has concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing. The issue has unified some Republicans and Democrats.
Republican lawmakers have been especially angry with Trump administration officials who sought to downplay the role of Mohammed, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, in the Oct. 2 killing.
Trump has said the killing, while deplorable, should not jeopardize the 70-year U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia, which includes lucrative arms deals and joint pressure on Iran.
Advocates of the Yemen measure, including Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Christopher S. Murphy (D-Conn.), pushed back on the idea that it is merely a messaging statement. They argue that a Senate rebuke of the war in Yemen — a top priority of the Saudi monarchy and Mohammed especially — is important.
“The time is long overdue for the United States to stop following the lead of Saudi Arabia, a brutal regime that recently murdered a dissident journalist and has no respect for human rights,” Sanders said.
He said he is also motivated by the Senate “reasserting” its constitutional authority to begin wars, calling the U.S. role in Yemen an “unauthorized and unconstitutional war.”
U.S.-supported Saudi airstrikes in Yemen have killed tens of thousands of civilians. The war, in which Saudi Arabia is attempting to oust Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, has pushed Yemen into what the United Nations says is the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, with millions of people on the brink of starvation.
“Why should we continue to support Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen when the kingdom is killing our residents and lying about it?” Lee said, alluding to the Khashoggi slaying. “It is far past time that the United States Senate had a serious debate regarding our military involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.”
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